Sand cat is a beautiful desert cat ranging from Sahara in North Africa to the arid regions of Iran and Pakistan in West and South Asia. A little cat, it weighs nearly six pounds and is around one and a half to two feet long, excluding its one foot long tail.
Living in some of the hottest places of the planet, Felix Margarita, the Sand Cat is adapted to its lifestyle. Its thick fur protects it from cold desert nights whereas the mesh of hair on the under-surface of paws shield it from the scorching sand in day time. Color is sandy yellow with irregular black bars on torso, legs and tail. Face is broad and ears are long and pointed – enabling it to hear over long distances in the vast expanses of deserts. Reddish markings run along the side of eyes and back of ears. Chin and throat are white. Claws are usually blunt owing to dearth of places in the desert for their sharpening.
A solitary feline, the Sand Cat is primarily a nocturnal hunter. It spends the day hiding in burrows, beneath rocks and bush. At night it uses its sensitive ears and great digging skills to take down a variety of prey from above and beneath the ground – including gerbil, jerboas, insects, birds and even venomous desert snakes. It frequently hides the prey beneath sand to return and feed later.
Sand Cat is divided into a number of subspecies according to its geographical distribution as shown by the map:
Felix Margarita Margarita (North Africa)
Felix Margarita Harrisoni (Arabia)
Felix Margarita Thinobia (Iran)
Felix Margarita Scheffeli (Pakistan)
An elusive animal, the sand cat is difficult to track in the wild. It does not necessarily visit water holes since it fulfills all water requirements from the consumption of prey. It leaves no tracks in sand and remains hidden for most of the day. Males and females only come together in mating season. The cat produces a somewhat loud barking sound that enables communication over long distances in the desert. Usually two litter are born every year after a pregnancy lasting nearly two months, with four to five kittens being the average on each occasion. The young mature fast, being weaned off at a month and a half and gaining independence at around four months.
Owing to its reclusive lifestyle and certain religious beliefs that make the sand cat revered in many areas of its habitat, it is not extensively persecuted – allowing it to remain in healthy numbers in the wild – though it is still collected for pet trade and hunted for sport!